What effects does the trial have on the black and white community?Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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 Without doubt, the town of Maycomb is changed after the debacle of the trial of the innocent Tom Robinson. 

The Black Community 

  • For the black community, although Tom is found guilty and in his desperation he escapes and is cruelly shot, there is, as Miss Maudie says "a step" forward towards justice for blacks since the jury was out for a rather long time. 
  • Certainly, the community is distraught over the untimely death of Tom; however, the members of this community have a new respect for Atticus Finch as the Reverend Sykes and others in the balcony have stood as Atticus has left the courtroom at the end of the trial. 
  • Later, they shower him with food as a sign of their appreciation for his efforts to defend Tom.

The White Community

  • There is a realization by Dill, Scout, and Jem of the cruelty of racial prejudice as they wonder how the jury could hand in a guilty charge in Tom's trial.  In fact, they do as Mr. Dolphus Raymond has told them,

'Cry about the simple hell people give other people--without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they're people, too.'

  • Disappointed by the guilty charge against Tom, Atticus is, nevertheless, encouraged that the verdict did not come in right away as someone who would not go along with the others thought for himself.
  • Miss Maudie is very impressed with how Atticus has handled the case.  Having baked a cake for the Finches, she acknowledges that Atticus has done the hard task of initiating change in Maycomb. She tells the children, who learn new respect for Atticus,

"I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father's one of them."

  • There is some anxiety created in Aunt Alexandra who worries that Atticus may have become embittered by this case.
  • Mr. Underwood, who previously expressed no sympathies for blacks, writes an editorial in The Colored News of the Maycomb Tribune in which he condemns the Tom Robinson's death as the killing of an innocent man.
  • Some people think Mr. Underwood "made a fool of himself" writing this editorial.
  • Bob Ewell, filled with hate after having been "mocked" at the trial by Atticus, vows revenge.
  • Sheriff Heck Tate, disgusted by the perjury of Bob and Mayella Ewell, feels no sympathy for Ewell when he is killed as Boo Radley defends the children.  Consequently, he protects Boo from charges.
  • Despite the new realizations of many of the community, there are yet those like Mrs. Merriweather who feel "there are some good, but misguided people in this town."
  • After teaching the children at school about the atrocities committed against the Jews in Nazi Germany, Miss Gates tells Miss Stephanie Crawford on the courthouse steps that

it's time somebody taught 'em a lesson, they were gettin' way above themselves, an' the next thing they think they can do is marry us.



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